Did Marilyn Pass Through Hong Kong in 1954?

Today’s obituary page in the Daily Mail includes an interesting anecdote from Timothy Goss, son-in-law of Derek Bishop who died recently, aged 85. Apparently, Derek met Marilyn at the former Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong one freezing night, while on guard duty as part of his national service in the British Royal Air Force.

Although the story is dated as from 1952, Marilyn didn’t travel to the Far East until 1954. National service usually lasted for 1 year, sometimes more. And I haven’t heard of her visiting Hong Kong before, but it’s possible she passed through while returning to husband Joe DiMaggio in Japan after entertaining US troops in Korea.

However, as April VeVea points out over at Marilyn Remembered, “That seems really far out of the way when Hong Kong is roughly 2000 miles [from South Korea] and Kobe, Japan is 800.” So did Derek really meet Marilyn, or another blonde starlet that night?

“When his shift came to an end at 9pm, Derek and another solider were asked if they would stay on because a delayed flight was expected and there was a ‘celebrity’ on board.

They agreed and when the plane landed at 11pm, the famous passenger who stepped out was none other than the woman who would become the ultimate screen goddess.

Derek said she was dressed in ‘everyday’ clothes and wore very little make-up. She insisted on thanking him and his pal personally for working late and took them for a drink in the Nissen Hut that served as the mess.

He had half a lager and his only comment was that ‘she had no side to her.'”

Korean Writer Inspired by Marilyn

A new novel loosely based on Marilyn’s 1954 trip to Korea will be published by Harper-Collins imprint 4th Estate in Spring 2019, reports The Bookseller. Penned by Korean author and screenwriter Ji-min Lee, Marilyn & Me imagines a friendship between Marilyn and a Korean translator. While the premise is probably fictitious (as far as I know, Marilyn didn’t require a translator during her tour of US army bases), it’s a fascinating part of her life and a Korean woman’s perspective on those events should be intriguing.

“Set in 1954, in the aftermath of the Korean war, Marilyn & Me unfolds over the course of four days, when Marilyn Monroe took time out from her honeymoon with Joe DiMaggio to tour Korea, performing for the US soldiers stationed there. Her translator is Alice, a typist on the US base – where she is the only Korean woman making a living off the American military without being a prostitute – although everyone assumes she is. As these two women form an unlikely friendship, the story of Alice’s traumatic experiences in the war emerges, and when she becomes embroiled in a sting operation involving the entrapment of a Communist spy she is forced to confront the past she has been trying so hard to forget.

Helen Garnons-Williams, publishing director at the HarperCollins imprint, described Marilyn & Me as ‘a compelling and surprising story of damage and survival, grief and unexpected solace.’

‘Alice, raw and wry and wearing her grief like armour, is a wonderful character, and her experiences offer a fascinating – and timely – insight into an extraordinary time and place. We are thrilled to be publishing this darkly beautiful novel.'”

Marilyn, From Korea to Connecticut

A recent obituary for a Korea veteran in the Hartford Courant includes a reference to Marilyn’s 1954 visit. (I wonder if he ever bumped into Marilyn after she moved to Connecticut with Arthur Miller in 1956?)

“Gordon Thomas Calano died peacefully in his sleep in Hobe Sound, Florida, on April 9, 2018 …  Gordon was born on July 1, 1929, in Hartford, Connecticut. He graduated from East Hartford High School in 1947 and from the University of Connecticut in 1951, leaving soon after for Korea, where he served in the army for two years as a war correspondent and earned a Purple Heart. One of his most treasured memories was acting as Marilyn Monroe’s personal escort while she entertained the troops. Following military service, Gordon taught English and history at East Hartford High before launching Calano Furniture … “

Elsewhere in Connecticut, Greenwich Time reports on a new book by local author Matthew Bernard,  Victorian Summer: The Historic Houses of Belle Haven Park, which also has a link to Marilyn, Arthur, and the producer of The Misfits.

Frank Taylor (centre) with the Millers on location for ‘The Misfits’

“The house he grew up in, for instance, was previously owned by Frank Taylor, publisher of Playbill magazine and a Broadway and film producer. Taylor entertained major creative talents at the home, including Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller…”

Marilyn in Korea: Rare Colour Slides Found in Louisiana

Eight colour slides of Marilyn in Korea were discovered by a veteran’s family in Louisiana over the Easter weekend, as Jim Dresbach writes for DCMilitary.com.

“When Louis Larue passed away in February, he left thousands of photographs he snapped of his family, friends, and time spent as an Army pilot in the 3rd Infantry Division in Korea.

Larue took hundreds of pictures during his Korean deployment. Some snapshots documented and captured the aftermath of an anti-aircraft artillery attack on his aircraft, but his lens stumbled upon glamour and greatness in early 1954. That February, Larue captured America’s most famous glamour girl on film.

Marilyn and her friend Jean O’Doul (at left) chat with soldiers in a mess hall

Mike Larue, son of the Monroe photographer, has been busy trying to catch his breath and to piece together the circumstances behind the photos.

‘In all the conversations we had with my dad about him being over there (in Korea), nobody remembers him mentioning anything about seeing Marilyn Monroe,’ Mike said. ‘This came off as a shock.'”

Marilyn Returns to ‘Battleground Korea’

Battleground Korea: Songs and Sounds of America’s Forgotten War is a deluxe 4-CD box set from Bear Family Records. Among those featured on this ultimate soundtrack to history are artists who performed for US troops, and news broadcasts from the era.

Unfortunately, Marilyn’s performances aren’t included (perhaps full recordings aren’t available), but her 1954 visit is covered in an accompanying hardback book, with nine pages of photos showing Marilyn among her greatest fans.

Thanks to A Passion for Marilyn

Rare Photos of Young Marilyn at Heritage Auctions

Rare photographs showing a young Marilyn, taken from the private collection of Hollywood security guard Aviv Wardimon, will be on offer at the Entertainment Signatures sale at Heritage Auctions, ending on April 15, reports the Daily Mail. (Eagle-eyed fans will notice that the image shown above is very similar to the cover photo of Michelle Morgan’s MM: Private and Undisclosed, given by Marilyn to Bill Pursel.)

“The images show Marilyn posing alongside guard Aviv Wardimon and are believed to have been taken outside the 20th Century Fox studio some time in the late 1940s. Wardimon’s family discovered the images recently and said they had no idea their relative was friends with Monroe, who is shown embracing him in several shots. Wardimon, who later changed his last name to Blackman, emigrated to the US from Israel before working for a time as a security guard. His images are now expected to fetch $1,000 (£700) each at auction.

Margaret Barrett, Director of Entertainment Memorabilia, said: ‘We have a few lots of never before seen snapshots taken when she is between 21-22 years old. We dated it by her haircut, it is still long, down to her shoulders and a light brown that turns light strawberry blondish in certain lights.’

‘These have never been seen before, she’s standing outside on the back of 20th Century Fox, she’s with a man. It was a mystery to the man’s own family, they know he worked as a security guard at one of the studio lots and had come over from Israel with his wife and children.’

‘Marilyn is with him for most of the shots, they obviously had some sort of a friendship. She’s in three different outfits so it could be from three different days, she must have known him beyond being a passing acquaintance.’

‘There are three lots, I have a feeling he had a massive crush on her, saw her on the lot and had these early shots of her. When the family found them, they said, Oh my gosh, it’s Marilyn Monroe.’

Rare black and white signed photographs where Marilyn Monroe thanks her co-workers in similar notes – ‘It’s a pleasure to work with you’ – are estimated at $7,000 (£5,000) and $4,000 (£2,800.) Publicity shots including an unseen postcard where Marilyn and another female were hired as pin-ups for the 1947 National Postmasters Convention in Los Angeles.

A signed menu from Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio’s honeymoon in Hawaii in 1954 is estimated to go for $2,000 (£1,400). In her note, she penned ‘The food was wonderful’ before writing her name ‘Marilyn Monroe DiMaggio’. Although her marriage to the New York Yankee’s star nicknamed Joltin’ Joe would end within a year, the menu preserves a precious moment of the couple’s life.

Margaret said: ‘This is when she flew from LA to Hawaii, she was only there for a night and went to a Trader Vic’s restaurant, which was very 50s. She signed the menu with something cute, then Joe signed the next page and Joe’s friend who went on the honeymoon with them. Marilyn was obviously signing it for the waiter or owner, if it was just a fan she wouldn’t have commented on the food.’

Never before seen photographs from Marilyn Monroe’s visit to Korea, shortly after her honeymoon with soldiers and close-ups of her in a spaghetti-strapped dress on stage, are estimated at $2,000 (£1,400).”

UPDATE: Auction results here

Country Star Recalls Marilyn in Korea

Country singer Leroy Van Dyke, whose career spans six decades, has recalled being Marilyn’s opening act during her 1954 tour of Korea in an interview with Maine Edge.

“During the Korean War, Van Dyke was a special agent in U.S. Army Counterintelligence – a member of the 40th CIC, attached to the 40th infantry division. Assigned at Regimental level on the DMZ on the 38th parallel, Van Dyke says he had a squad tent to himself, and on occasion, he would head in to detachment for meetings accompanied by his guitar.

‘My commanding officer was a major from Kansas City and we got along real well,’ Van Dyke said. ‘He’d say Van, go get your guitar and let’s have a little music. The first time anyone heard The Auctioneer was at one of those meetings. Word quickly began to spread among the troops about the singing special agent.’

‘Later on, the Asst. Regimental Commander – a Lt. Colonel – came into my tent and asked if I would perform for 15 minutes to open up a USO show that was coming through,’ Van Dyke recalled. “’ asked him who else was going to perform on this show and he told me. It was Marilyn Monroe.’

More than a little nervous at the prospect of trying to appease impatient troops awaiting the hottest female star in the world at that moment, Van Dyke recalled his response: ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ before adding ‘It worked out very well and I guess I’m the only country act to ever open a show for Marilyn Monroe.'”

Not Forgotten: Marilyn in Korea

Bill Wamke, who was drafted by the US Army in 1952 and was appointed stenographer to the Commanding General of the 25th Infantry Division, recalls meeting Marilyn during her 1954 tour of Korea in an interview with the Kokomo Herald.

“‘She got to because our division was not on the line when I got over there, the 7 was on the line. My division was not on the line … Of course there was no danger there, and since it was close to the ceasefire, I got there about a month before. Marilyn Monroe moved around the camp and visited with the troops and stuff, and it was neat to see her.’

Wanke still has the photographs he took of Monroe and said, for one of them, she was kind and patient while he got his camera set to take the photo.”